HSBC Women’s Champions 2017
Inbee, Champion of Champions once again
South Korean Inbee Park marked her return to the winner’s circle with a resounding victory at the 2017 HSBC Women’s Champions. Plagued by back and thumb injuries in 2016, the former world no. 1 and 7-time major winner, took a 6-month sabbatical after clinching the Olympic gold medal in August. Competing in just her second start, Inbee couldn't have picked a better way to herald her return; victory at an event widely considered to be Asia’s major on the US LPGA Tour.
The 72-hole, no cut tournament
saw 63 of the world’s best female golfers battle it out at the recently reconstructed New Tanjong Course of the Sentosa Golf Club. At the start of the final round, the leaderboard was stacked with notable champions hovering within a few shots off the lead. Michelle Wie led the pack at 14-under par, while World No. 1 Lydia Ko, World No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn and big-hitting South Korean sensation Sung Hyun Park stayed well poised for the pounce, just 2 shots back.
Wie got off to a fabulous start with birdies on the 3rd and 4th holes, now five shots ahead of Inbee who had until then, been playing pedestrian par golf. The par five 5th proved a turning point in the tournament with Wie four-putting, and Inbee beginning her red hot streak – birdie, birdie, par, birdie, birdie, birdie, birdie, birdie, par and birdie – to go 19-under par after 14 holes.
Turning the corner from her disappointing putting in earlier rounds, Inbee shared, “I think it's always hard to make the first putts, and then after, it gets easier. Once you get the confidence going, then you know, maybe by the third birdie, I just felt like it was in the hole. I had to wait for the moment the whole time, and today was just that day, where I stand over the putt so confident that I can draw a line directly to the hole and it just goes exactly to the hole.”
Ariya, who won 5 times in her sophomore LPGA season in 2016,
proved she was worth every ounce of the hype playing near-flawless golf. The 21-year old managed 6 birdies and a bogey up to the 16th hole, without a driver in her bag. Now two shots back, with two holes to play, Ariya needed to play aggressively on the par three 17th for a chance at the championship title. With the pin tucked 3 yards and a fringe away from the water’s edge, Ariya hit a near-perfect wedge shot, leaving herself a very makeable 4-foot putt for birdie.
On Ariya’s potentially game-changing wedge shot, Inbee said, “I told myself, you can't worry about things that haven't happened yet. I had couple of strokes lead, and even if she makes that putt; and I don't make that putt, the worst case, it's a one-stroke lead going into the last hole, which is not a bad place to be.”
In a steely display of mental fortitude, Inbee promptly played a safe shot to the centre of the green, and then went on to drain a 25-foot putt for birdie.
The 28-year old reaffirmed her status as a champion of champions, closing out with a comfortable sandy bogey on the final 18th hole to win by 1 stroke. No one had ever hoisted the trophy twice in the 10-year history of the tournament, until now. At the 2015 edition of the event, Inbee won with an impressive bogey-free score of 15-under par when the tournament was played at the Serapong Course, Sentosa Golf Club.
Inbee Park kissing the trophy
Ariya Jutanugarn on the 17th
Sung Hyun Park disappointed with a missed eagle opportunity
Michelle Wie teeing it up
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